Punch: 'We'll listen and change'

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Rent review Public house Renting Punch

Georgel: we are far from perfect
Georgel: we are far from perfect
We are far from perfect, but we are listening and we are willing to change — that is the message from Punch Taverns as it looks to evolve its model...

We are far from perfect, but we are listening and we are willing to change — that is the message from Punch Taverns as it looks to evolve its model following the highly critical Business & Enterprise Committee report into pubco power.

The pubco said it is working hard to improve the standard of its business relationship managers, reintroduce tenants' forums, make the rent review process more transparent, and increase discounts and services for multiple retailers.

A Morning Advertiser trip to Bath saw three well-respected licensees tell the pubco there was always room for improvement.

Joe Cussens, licensee at the Marlborough Arms, said that the rent review process had been his major gripe with Punch after his own investment of £150,000 in transforming the pub into a successful food-led venue.

"We wanted to make sure Punch couldn't turn round and say 'You have a lovely pub, now we want a higher rent.' But that is exactly what happened.

"You can go to a rent tribunal but, if you lose, you not only pay higher rent, you also have to pay a big fee, say £10,000. So, while in theory people can go to arbitration, the truth of matter is you can't. It is a game of brinkmanship."

Bigger discounts

Multiple lessee Alan Morgan, who runs microbrewery Abbey Ales, urged the pubco to offer bigger discounts. "What we want is a bit of the discount that these boys get."

"My beer is sold through the Society of Independent Brewers' Direct Delivery Scheme (to pubco tenants) at £20 a barrel more than my trade price. And when has a brewer ever sold beer at trade price?"

Karen Thomson took on her first pub, the Weston, 18 months ago. She's generally complimentary about her relationship with Punch, but is clearly wary of her first rent review. "Punch has been supportive but that's not to say that in the future we won't have a gripe. We know we haven't had a rent review yet. Who is to say that won't go terribly?"

Far from perfect

Punch operations director Kevin Georgel, who is in charge of BRMs, said: "We are far, far from perfect. I accept that.

"The relationship with the BRM should not be a postcode lottery — in other words there has got to be a high level of consistency of BRM calibre across the business.

"We are committed to change, but I accept there are still a number of BRMs in the business and in the industry who do not deliver the level of service or value-add to licensees that they need to. You can't change it overnight."

But Georgel also stressed licensees had a responsibility to listen. "The other thing for licensees is not to let the relationship with your BRM fail because you don't give them a chance. And there is a lot of that, if I am honest."

He added: "The aim is to get 140 top BRMs. Will they ever get there? Probably not. But that's our aspiration — to have 140 highly-motivated, highly-trained, passionate people."

Georgel's views on business relationship managers:

Better recruitment:​ "We need a better calibre of person coming in — it's materially better than it was five years ago without question. That has accelerated in the past 12 months as a result of the recession. The employment market is probably richer than it has been for a very long time. We have invested heavily in profiling and psychometric testing."

Performance management:​ "We don't accept things that we used to accept three years ago. That is a fact. The BRM role is much more transparent than it ever was. Some of them, quite frankly, don't like it."

Visits:​ "We are encouraging BRMs to visit pubs on Friday or Saturday evening or come in on a Sunday lunchtime. How can a BRM try and add value to the business if they ever only see it at 10.30am?"

Cross pollination: ​"We are bringing in people with different experiences and backgrounds to help evolve the pub sector, for example from Starbucks."

Promises:​ "The biggest single gripe I hear about BRMs is broken promises. In many instances the intention is not to break the promise but it just doesn't happen. We need to deliver what we say we will and in some instances say no. In my experience, licensees just want to know where they stand and if it is no, say no, mean no and stick to no. If it's yes, bloody well do it."

Punch licensees in Bath — what they told Punch executives and the Morning Advertiser

Joe Cussens, Marlborough Tavern

Alan Morgan, the Star

Karen Thomson, the Weston

Related topics Legislation Punch Pubs & Co

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